Award-winning Memoirist & Poet
Author of The Ticking is the Bomb
Inspiration for Being Flynn (film)
“Flynn’s authentic voice … holds us rapt, keeping both the tragic and the redemptive possibilities open.” —Village Voice
"If the battered genre of memoir is ever to regain its luster and intention, its rightful heritage of memory and impression, then Flynn is one of its most passionate and skilled advocates." —San Francisco Chronicle
“In their roaming uneasiness, these poems [in Some Ether] enact the hypodermic activity of grief. We are guided by a stunning and solitary voice into lives that have spiritually and physically imploded. No one survives and still there is so much to be felt. Here is sorrow and madness reconciled to humanity. ” —Claudia Rankine
Nick Flynn is the author of three memoirs, The Reenactments (Norton, 2013), The Ticking is the Bomb: A Memoir of Bewilderment (2010) and Another Bullshit Night in Suck City (2004)—currently being published under title Being Flynn—which won the PEN/Martha Albrand Award for the Art of the Memoir and has been translated into fifteen languages. Another Bullshit Night in Suck City has been made into a film, Being Flynn, starring Robert DeNiro as Flynn's father, Julianne Moore as his mother, and Paul Dano as Nick. He is also the author of three books of poetry, The Captain Asks For a Show of Hands (Graywolf, 2011), Some Ether (Graywolf, 2000), which won the PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award, and Blind Huber (Graywolf, 2002).
He has been awarded fellowships from The Guggenheim Foundation, The Library of Congress, The Amy Lowell Trust, and The Fine Arts Work Center. Some of the venues his poems, essays and non-fiction have appeared in include The New Yorker, the Paris Review, National Public Radio’s “This American Life,” and The New York Times Book Review. He worked as a “field poet” and as an artistic collaborator on the film Darwin’s Nightmare, which was nominated for an Academy Award for best feature documentary in 2006. One semester a year, he teaches at the University of Houston and spends the rest of the year elsewhere.
Nick grew up on Boston’s South Shore. He spent six years working in the Pine Street Inn, a Boston homeless shelter. In Another Bullshit Night in Suck City Flynn recounts his tumultuous childhood and family life—with the uncanny trajectory that ultimately led his homeless father to seek shelter at the Pine Street Inn while Nick worked there. Poet Mark Doty opines, “Nick Flynn has given us one of the most terrifying families in American letters, though he approaches each character in this ferocious, inventive memoir with an almost radical sense of compassion, as if all that any of us could do were to stumble ahead with the burdens we are given. The result is a book so singular, harrowing and loving as to be indelible.” Another Bullshit Night joins the ranks of a small group of unforgettable late twentieth-century American memoirs, such as Mary Karr’s The Liars Club, and Frank Conroy’s Stop-Time.
Flynn Interview with a poem on the Boston Marathon bombing
The Judges’ statement for the 1999 PEN/ Joyce Osterweil Award for Poetry declared, “Nick Flynn's subject—a mother's suicide, a son's peripatetic childhood—could not be more difficult to approach. If [his] poems stand ‘close to tragedy,’ as Flynn puts it, they also embody the act of survival: syntax and line conspire to pull us past the event, beyond the struggle. And yet the ghost of trauma lingers, ramifying beyond the exquisitely understated endings of Flynn's poems. Even more powerful than the final line of ‘My Mother Contemplating Her Gun’—‘Tomorrow it will still be there’—is the silence that follows it, the knowledge that nothing lasts. These poems establish their emotional authority through their very movement—their wayward, whispering music. At once reckless and demure, outrageous and delicate.. . . .“
About THE REENACTMENTS (Memoir, 2013)
For Nick Flynn, that game we all play—the who-would-play-you-in-the-movie-of-your-life game—has been answered. The Reenactments is the story of adapting Flynn’s memoir, Another Bullshit Night in Suck City, into the film Being Flynn. It is also a searing meditation on consciousness, representation, and grief. Flynn describes the surreal experience of being on set during the reenactments of the central events of his life: his father’s long run of homelessness and the suicide of his mother. He tells the story of Robert De Niro’s first meeting with his father in Boston and of watching Julianne Moore attempt to throw herself into the sea. Expanding on the themes raised by these reenactments, Flynn weaves in meditations on the enigmatic Glass Flowers exhibition at Harvard University, alongside Ramachandran’s experiments with sufferers of phantom limb syndrome, to create a compelling argument about the eternal nature of grief.
About THE CAPTAIN ASKS FOR A SHOW OF HANDS (Poetry, 2011)
The Captain Asks for a Show of Hands is Nick Flynn’s first new poetry collection in nearly a decade. What begins as a meditation on love and the body soon breaks down into a collage of voices culled from media reports, childhood memories, testimonies from Abu Ghraib detainees, passages from documentary films, overheard conversations, and scraps of poems and song, only to reassemble with a gathering sonic force. It’s as if all the noise that fills our days were a storm, yet at the center is a quiet place, but to get there you must first pass through the storm, with eyes wide open, singing. Each poem becomes a hallucinatory, shifting experience, through jump cut, lyric persuasion, and deadpan utterance. This is an emotional, resilient response to some of the essential issues of our day by one of America’s riskiest and most innovative writers.
About THE TICKING IS THE BOMB: A MEMOIR OF BEWILDERMENT (Memoir, 2010)
In 2007, during the months before Nick Flynn's daughter's birth, his growing outrage and obsession with torture, exacerbated by the Abu Ghraib photographs, led him to Istanbul to meet some of the Iraqi men depicted in those photos. Haunted by a history of addiction, a relationship with an unsteady father, and a longing to connect with his mother who committed suicide, Flynn artfully interweaves in this memoir passages from his childhood, his relationships with women, and his growing obsession—a questioning of terror, torture, and the political crimes we can neither see not understand in post-9/11 American life. The time bomb of the title becomes an unlikely metaphor and vehicle for exploring the fears and joys of becoming a father. Here is a memoir of profound self-discovery—of being lost and found, of painful family memories and losses, of the need to run from love, and of the ability to embrace it again.
About BEING FLYNN [Formerly ANOTHER BULLSHIT NIGHT IN SUCK CITY] (Memoir, 2004)
Nick Flynn met his father when he was working as a caseworker in a homeless shelter in Boston. As a teenager he'd received letters from this stranger father, a self-proclaimed poet and con man doing time in federal prison for bank robbery. Another Bullshit Night in Suck City tells the story of the trajectory that led Nick and his father onto the streets, into that shelter, and finally to each other. Stephen Elliot of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote, “Another Bullshit Night in Suck City succeeds in a way most writers can only dream of: It is intense, lyrical, moving and ultimately enlightening. This is a book about no less than the vale of blood and the permanence of familial relations. A strangely poignant meditation on the debt sons owe their fathers, even bad fathers, even fathers that weren’t around. And if none of that interests you, read it for the sentences, each one a poem, and the flow of the narrative that hurtles toward a conclusion both stunning and unexpected.”